official urges committee to 'think big'
community center will need to be huge
of the details regarding potential uses and potential
funding for a multimillion dollar county community center
proposed in Platte City are starting to take shape.
A task force composed of a few private citizens as well
as representatives of several agencies involved in the
project met Wednesday night in Platte City. It was primarily
a feeling-out session, with committee members speaking
the positions of their agencies, though there were several
interesting developments come to light.
"Everything is still in the discussion stages, but
the meeting was very positive and very upbeat. I want
to emphasize our school district has not yet made a commitment,"
Dr. Mark Harpst, Platte County R-3 School District superintendent,
The proposal is identified as a project that would involve
multiple entities, including Platte County and the Platte
County R-3 School District. The YMCA has also stepped
forward to indicate an interest in operating the facility,
which will be a multipurpose complex proposed to be built
on 10 acres of land east of the Northland Career Center
facing Hwy. 92 in Platte City.
Among the interesting developments to come out of the
first task force meeting:
The countywhich has been asked for a $9 million
investment for the projectwould prefer to begin
with a $7 million investment of funds, with that money
coming from the county's sales tax for parks and recreation.
County officials have mentioned beginning with approximately
$7 million as an up-front investment in the center and
then adding around $2 million toward later phases.
Platte County R-3 has indicated it will contribute
the land on which the center would be built. The school
has had appraisals done on the property that list the
value at anywhere from $1.4 million to $2.4 million. School
officials have indicated they would consider the contribution
of property to be worth $2 million.
Platte County R-3 officials have discussed possibly
adding another $2 million to the project by floating a
no-tax increase bond issue.
This complex will be huge, and all indications
are it will have to be in order to keep R-3 school officials
happy. The school wants a facility large enough to house
an aquatic center, youth basketball, youth wrestling,
indoor soccer fields, jogging and walking areas, and weight
training facilities, among other things.
Dr. Harpst, the R-3 superintendent, said he envisions
the facility eventually being able to host the school's
high school basketball games and hosting basketball tournaments.
Eventually, some outdoor tennis courts would be nice
as well, Harpst indicated.
Early numbers being thrown around have stated the
facility may start out at being 35,000 to 40,000 square
feet. Quietly, some school district officials are saying
that's not nearly large enough to house all the needs
school officials see the facility fulfilling. The planning
committee may have to think larger to avoid losing the
school's potential participation in the proposed project.
Estimated annual operating costs for a 35,000 to
40,000 sq. ft. facility are listed at $750,000. Though
the YMCA has expressed interest in operating the facility,
details over how all of the annual operating costs will
be funded are still being discussed. Betty Knight, presiding
Platte County Commissioner, said one option is that the
county will enter into an operating contract with the
"If we build it through county sales tax money,
then we would be responsible for maintenance," Knight
The next step in the planning stage will be a needs
assessment survey to be done by the county and the YMCA.
Residents of the area will be surveyed on their opinion
of the recreational needs and what things they might like
to see included in the community center complex.
The survey process is expected to take around 90 days.
Harpst remains encouraged and excited about the potential
"Our school board has identified several amenities
we'd like to see included, such as an aquatic center,
indoor soccer, youth basketball, youth wrestling, and
all of our high school activities," he said.
He said the school would need priority usage of the facility
during its sports seasons.
"We see it as a school priority situation, with
the community getting a lot of use out of the facility
also," Harpst added.
"I'm encouraging everyone to think big. We need
to plan for the growth of our community over the next
Harpst said fulfilling a variety of needs will be the
key from the school's point of view.
"The key thing is to make it a multi-purpose facility
to accommodate things like youth soccer and youth wrestling.
There's tremendous interest in those things and we don't
have any place to put them," he explained.
"Our buildings are constantly full of activities.
We need to take some of that pressure off. We are wearing
our facilities out," he remarked.
He also expressed the position that a master plan for
the facility needs to be developed, so the complex can
grow with future stages of construction.
Though the high school band and some intramural teams
currently practice in the space where the complex is proposed
to be built, Harpst doesn't see that as a problem.
"We've got 10 acres there. It may only take 3-4
acres for the project, which would leave room for green
space and practice fields," he said.
As for a time frame on how fast things might move forward,
Harpst said in his opinion it will be at least a year
before ground could be broken.
"That would be if things go perfectly," he
If the school does propose a bond issue to go toward
the project, the next available date for an election would
be April. If it doesn't happen in April, the school district
would likely wait until the next municipal election after
that, which would be next November.
In even numbered years, like the upcoming 2002, school
district bond issues only require a 57% voter approval
for passage at municipal elections.
A special election during 2002 held separately from the
April or November municipal election would require an
approval of 67% of voters.
Harpst sees this as a major opportunity for the school
and the community.
"We currently have 1,700 kids on this campus. Next
year there will be 1,825. With our growth, there soon
will be 2,000 kids right here on this (Hwy. 92 in Platte
"As our high school gets bigger and bigger, we will
need to build a middle school somewhere and the current
middle school can become (a part of) the high school,"
the superintendent explained.
"I see this as a one-time opportunity to get an
aquatic center and a fieldhouse. We're going to make sure
our investment will provide a lot for our students,"
Knight said she sees the YMCA's experience as being a
key to the center's success.
"Their expertise in running it is the most important
thing," she said, adding that the YMCA operates similar
centers in Bonner Springs and in Olathe.
She said the results of the needs assessment survey will
determine much of the future planning. It is hoped the
survey, which will be done by telephone, will be completed
"It will all come from that assessment, what do
the people want to do first. One of the things we've heard
is that people want an aquatic center. That's a very expensive
item, but if that's what they want then that's something
that needs to be included," Knight stated.
Members of the task forceofficially known as the
Central Platte County Community Center Steering Committeeinclude
Harpst, school board members Carey Rolofson and Lee Ann
Fadler; county park board members Margie Maasen and Sean
Eisler; Jack Kopetz of Platte Senior Services; Ron Baker
of North Platte R-1 School District; Dick Stephens and
Mark Comfort of Platte City; Joyce Yates Priddy from the
City of Weston, and Rhonda Stamper, citizen representative
who resides in the R-3 district.
Presiding Platte County Commissioner Betty Knight and
Second District County Commissioner Steve Wegner both
attended the meeting, as well as Brian Nowotny, the county's
parks and recreation director.